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Published Date

11th April 2022

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To strengthen collaborative partnerships between staff and students through the establishment of a Student Society.



  • Dean Coulter

Project Description

Prior to the case study’s intervention the Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics revised its induction programme for new students to the BSc Hons Accounting programmes in 2012/13, to begin pre-enrolment and the format to be a combination of activities both lecture and discussion-led.

This programme of activities proved successful in the academic year 2012/13, though the team felt that students should be utilised as not only participants in this induction programme but also collaborators and partners.

This conclusion was reached through engagement with a ‘reflective checklist’), a resource of the What Works? Student Retention & Success (2012).

This idea being informed by strategic aim 2 of the Ulster University’s learning and teaching strategy (2013/14 – 2017/18) ‘To provide transformative, high quality, learning experiences through the promotion of meaningful staff student partnerships that engender a shared responsibility’.

The team felt that this would happen through the Student Society in ‘developing the capacity of staff and students to engage’ and be developed through the overlapping area of the social and academic spheres in figure 1 of the ‘What Works? model of student retention and success’, What Works? Student Retention & Success (2012).

This case study will demonstrate how students can be trusted, independent partners with both staff and employers.


The BSc Hons Accounting (FT/PT) Course Team, considered the case study of Nottingham Trent University’s welcome week (Higher Education Academy (2011)), in seeking to further build social capital and support academic and social transitions through its induction programme

Evaluation Approach

There was a feedback survey conducted on the pre-enrolment induction day. The current ongoing review of retention and attrition results for each undergraduate programme on a regular basis through the Staff/Student Consultative Committee, Course Committee and School Executive structure (annual subject monitoring process) also was used to evaluate impact of change of the intervention.

At the end of each semester, a focus group with full-time and part-time students (those who have participated and those who have not) was conducted to better understand the role that a student society can play in social integration and inform future planned activities.

The continued vibrancy of the Student Society, its strengthening professional networking with local employers and positive National Student Survey results have also provided evidence of the positive impact of the Student Society.

Evidence of Impact

In consideration of the BSc Hons Accounting (PT) over the course of the study the student cohort have shown an increasing level of belongingness from 3.88 to 4.02 and an increasing level of engagement from 3.71 to 4.48.

Also shown is a decreasing level of self-confidence from 3.96 to 3.61, a figure in line with the full-time counterparts and still above ‘Ulster Overall’ and ‘All UK Institutions’.

This downward trend in self-confidence may though be a reflection of more appropriate expectations of study-life having been set.

While the BSc Hons Accounting (PT) remains challenging for development, due to the often disparate and more mature nature of part-time cohort students, the scores for BSc Hons Accounting (PT) is in part a reflection of the small sample size of seven students.

As already noted, a mature student’s welcome lunch is a planned future activity.

Reflective Commentary

One positive unintended consequence has been the strong student-employer partnerships that have developed through the ongoing work between this active Student Society in obtaining sponsorship and support for Student Society events.

This developed from staff team members initially connecting the Student Society to local employers, to the Student Society now developing their own professional network links.

The consequences of this has been improved self-confidence in the student cohort as evidenced in the results of the Belonging Survey and will also support graduate employability initiatives.


The Belonging Survey, ‘Free Flow Audit’ and subsequent student focus groups have shown areas of focus for the next academic year: further building of staff-student relationships; and further development of a sense of belonging self-confidence for part-time students.

The Society’s independence has been reflected in their rebranding in academic year 2015/16 to ‘Business Student Society’, which in itself suggests a confidence in the Society and ambition to develop across the Ulster University Business School.

Staff and the Organising Committee of this Student Society, in a commitment to the Student Society’s sustainability, have collaborated to develop a Business Student Society Community Impact Award to be awarded in 2016.



This case study was part of a three-year What Works? Student Retention & Success Change Programme funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, co-ordinated by the Higher Education Academy (now, Advance HE), and Action on Access.

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